It’s remarkable the impact of technology on business. Put differently, it’s remarkable what happens when small businesses don’t utilize technology in today’s world. The impact of technology on small and mid-size businesses has never been so obvious as it is now, particularly when you consider the myriad payment options, customer contact points, and even simple communication. Even the most traditional of businesses can see significant increases in their efficiencies, profits, customer acquisition and retention by utilizing things like ERP, CRM, e-commerce, and digital marketing utilities.
But how do you as a small-to-medium sized business owner decide what technologies you need, and what could you do without? Here’s a list of the Top Five Reasons you, as the owner of a small- to mid-sized business, should consider ERP and CRM systems to drive your business.
Good Technology for Small- to Medium-Sized Business Makes Your Staff Better
The old adage is that “information is power.” Without the drama of evil empires, the basis of the statement is true. Your staff can serve a customer better when they have a customer’s order history, payment history, account information, and likes/dislikes more readily at their fingertips. When a customer is treated with the deference of being a long-standing and loyal customer, their satisfaction is affirmed and they’ll more likely remain loyal.
What’s more, how many times have you tried to remember your account information for a particular retailer? That unique password amongst dozens. Unless you’re super human, it’s a hassle and a barrier to a purchase. If your staff – either on a customer service issue or a new sale – can make the account information easy, then you’re that much closer to revenue.
Good technology also gets you closer to getting paid. The easier, faster, you make it for customers to pay, the more likely they will be to pay on-time.
The top four reasons good technology makes your staff better are:
- Find customer information more easily, faster, and more accurately
- A customer’s legacy information (sales history and service record) is more easily accessed
- Your customer doesn’t have to be the expert in their own account
- Billing faster means getting paid faster
When You’re Faster You Serve Your Customers Better
It’s almost cliché these days that when someone asks, “how are you?”, the answer inevitably is “busy.” Of course, everyone is busy these days. If you’re not busy, you’re not living and working to the fullest. But what if your business helps save your customer time? Isn’t that going to the very heart of what they say they need most? Time?
Good technology doesn’t replace or change human behavior. What it does do is make a human behavior easier or faster. Think about it. Facebook didn’t invent a new human behavior. People connected through telephone, email, social events, and snail mail before. What Facebook does is makes it easier and faster to share news and messages to larger groups of people, and for them to respond in a faster and easier way.
So what does this mean for your business? Technology can make the way your customers do business with you faster and easier. It won’t change what they do. But in the end, good technology satisfies the customer because they walk away saying, “that was easy.” And for a small or mid-sized business, that’s a win.
What are the ways technology can make you faster? Here are the top three:
- Technology identifies customer behavior faster so people can be better at knowing what your customer wants. For instance, a CRM knows what your customer buys and can make recommendations like, “Here is your most recent order. Would you like to buy this again?” In addition, it stores their payment information so check-out is much faster.
- Ordering is easier, confirmation is faster, communication is constant and helpful. Real-time transactions are the expectation anymore. Order confirmations, receipts, shipping confirmations and updates, and delivery confirmation are all things we’ve come to expect in real-time. When you have an integrated ERP and CRM, real-time communications are possible without a heavy burden on your staff.
- Information is transferrable – no one person “owns” customer information so everyone can be helpful. When a customer takes the time and contacts your company, what they don’t want to hear is that someone else is the only one who can help them and they’ll have to wait for that person to call them back. When technology allows each team member access to a customer’s information, they’re empowered to help that customer when they need. That increases satisfaction which means that customer will have a higher likelihood of staying loyal to your company.
Timely Equals Profitable
As a general rule, the longer you make a customer wait the less likely it becomes that they’ll complete their order. Time is key, so being timely directly relates to profitability.
Imagine this scenario. A couple has season tickets to a theater in a trendy neighborhood. In addition to the theater, there are several restaurants and bars. As the couple begins going to that season’s productions, they make a reservation at a particular restaurant that’s just down the block from the theater. It’s an up-scale restaurant that also has valet parking. The next month, because they enjoyed their meals and the convenient proximity to the theater, they make a reservation at the same restaurant. The third month, much to the delight and surprise of the couple, a few days before the show they receive an email from the restaurant suggesting a reservation and makes an offer of a complimentary dessert with their reservation. Because it’s surprising and useful, the couple makes the reservation and decides that it’s now their custom to eat at the restaurant before each show. In addition, the couple now receives a personalized note from the general manager after each meal thanking them for their visit.
How does it work? The restaurant uses a CRM system that recognizes the name from a reservation, and the pattern with which they make reservations. Once the CRM establishes the pattern (a visit every third Thursday, for instance), the system uses an automated marketing flow to suggest repeat behavior, plus an incentive. The result? The couple confirmed their behavior by receiving timely, relevant, and useful information.
So what are the top three ways that technology helps small businesses be timely and therefore more profitable?
- Before they order – Recognizing when people order means you can make their lives easier. Easier means they’re more likely to order from you rather than someone else.
- When they order – Time is money, for everybody. If you make the process of ordering faster, easier, and more convenient, then you’re much more likely to win the customer and keep the customer.
- After they order – Communicate with value. Thank them for their businesses. Give them the documents they need (confirmation, invoice, shipping information, customer service) so that it is easy for them to do what they need to do.
Know Your Customer
You know the cliché. It’s in every power mogul’s playbook. They walk into a restaurant and the maître de falls over themselves, dropping the customer’s name, and doing everything they can to ensure their satisfaction. Practical? No. Necessary? Not really. But when the customer feels like they’re known as a valuable customer they feel differently about your company. That’s one of the benefits of a smaller company – you have the chance to get to know your customers on a personal level.
Reality is, big companies want to retain this aspect of being small. They want to recognize their customers. How they buy. When they buy. What they buy. That’s why there are loyalty programs that not only reward the customer for their patronage, but also feed information into their systems so that their sales and service folks can have a better idea who the customer is, even when they don’t.
But is it really practical, even for small businesses, to know that much about each of their customers? Not without technology to help.
That begs the question then, what should you try to know about your customers? Here’s a starter list of the top data points you’d want to know about your customers:
- Is it their first time ordering?
- How long have they been a customer?
- How did they become a customer? Or, how did they find out about you?
- Do they buy from you in more than one way? (online, phone and in-store?)
- How often do they order?
- What do they buy?
- How do they buy? (account, credit card, invoice?)
The answers to these questions can be at your sales people’s and service team’s fingertips with the right ERP and CRM systems.
Not Having Technology Costs More than Paying for the Right Technology
The reality of today’s marketplace – whether B2B or B2C – is that people expect buying to be easy. That’s a combination of both the “what” and the “how”. There’s a measured value in the experience, in addition to the message. If you suggest a targeted, value-driven message to the right customer and then offer an easy method of purchase, the customer sees greater value than a simple price savings equation. Check out this article in the Harvard Business Review for a deeper dive into how this is explained.
The simple fact remains that if everything in your company is manual in a digital world, you’ll have to try and compensate for that lack of technology with more and more people. Or, you simply surrender your position to a competitor. This is the opportunity cost of not making an investment into the right technology.
Here are six examples of how not investing into the right technology might cost you money you didn’t realize?
- If ordering is hard or takes too much time, they’ll go somewhere else
- If your competition knows more about them as a customer and serves as such, then you’ll likely lose the customer
- If it takes more time to manually invoice and collect money, you lose money. In addition, if you pay a full salary for something technology could do for you in less time, you also lose money
- If you don’t see and act on patterns in ordering, you could be losing money in both inventory management and sales
- If your competition moves faster than you, you lose money
The Sum of the Parts
Here is a great comparison chart of the top ERP systems for small business. Some combine both ERP (operations and financial systems) with CRM (customer relationship management and marketing automation.)
You may find that you would be better served by having an independent CRM solution, in which case here’s a great list of software options to choose from:
If you’re in a place where you don’t feel comfortable evaluating your position or opportunity with technology, then let us help. Contact us and you’ll get a free digital assessment of your company’s –and your competitors’ – presence online and an assessment of your company’s technology opportunity. It’s no obligation and free, so drop us a line today.